A Brooklyn Starbucks’ long movie theater past

Starbucks sells coffee out of 307 franchises throughout the five boroughs, and some of these locations have significant history behind them.

Baristas are serving up cafe lattes from the West 23rd Street brownstone where author Edith Wharton grew up.

There’s also a Starbucks inside the former barber shop on West 55th Street where Murder Inc. mobster Albert Anastasia was riddled with bullets while waiting for a haircut.

And on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint is this Starbucks, caffeinating New Yorkers from a former movie palace built in 1914 called the American Theatre (right, in the 1930s—and hey,trolley tracks!).

A century ago, Greenpoint residents hit this 565-seat neighborhood picture show with the proud eagle on top to see stars like Charlie Chaplin and Lillian Gish.

And if the American wasn’t playing anything worth seeing, they had other local theater options, like the Meserole Theater, which opened in 1922.

The American sold tickets throughout the golden age of Hollywood and in 1968 was renamed the Chopin (left, in 1980), possibly a nod to the increasingly Polish immigrant neighborhood.

After the Chopin closed its doors in 1987, the theater remained empty, then housed a succession of fast-food franchises, including a Burger King, into the 21st century.

Starbucks has occupied this space (and displayed their brand on the marquee once reserved for movie titles, actors, and actresses) for several years, amid a dwindling number of businesses bearing Polish names.

The building recently got a paint job, but the eagle on top of the facade still remains.

[Second photo: NYPL; third photo: NYC Department of Records; fourth photo: via Pinterest]

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9 Responses to “A Brooklyn Starbucks’ long movie theater past”

  1. Richard Says:

    Why did they remove the Eagle?

  2. Benjamin Feldman Says:

    For a history of one of New York’s first movie house builders creator of its first nickelodeon, read about Sol Brill here: http://newyorkwanderer.com/1830-2/
    Brill built the Meserole Theater and so many extant others.

  3. Ann Says:

    Sure has changed

  4. Greg Says:

    It got a paint job and a one-story addition, actually. It’s looking pretty ugly these days, but at least they kept the eagle.

  5. Eric Says:

    Painting the whole building (including the eagle) has removed any character left. The NYSC addition is an eyesore

  6. The Bronx is the land of faded old movie houses | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] York City has many grand old theaters and movie houses. These hearty survivors have been typically rebranded as a drugstore, Starbucks, or some other store that has none of that show biz grandeur or […]

  7. The end of a one-screen East Side movie theater | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] It’s a transformation similar to what’s happened to other small city theaters, like this one in Greenpoint that now has Starbucks on the marquee! […]

  8. Is this the oldest photograph taken in Brooklyn? | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] that the Meserole farmhouse once stood at 723 Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint—which became the Meserole Theater in the 20th century, and now houses a […]

  9. The Gothic-style Starbucks on Lexington Avenue | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] certainly a lot different from another unusual Starbucks in Greenpoint…housed in a 1920s ex-neighborhood movie theater, complete with […]

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